By Naya Kurdy
The work of 1980s art-world stars such as Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat has been splashed onto everything, from Uniqlo T-shirts to Coach handbags. Building on Dior’s new tradition of partnering with contemporary art figures from around the world, Kim Jones, Director of the fall 2021 Dior men’s collection, is collaborating with one of the most striking figures on the art scene since the 1980s: Kenny Scharf.
Scharf is an American painter known for his cartoonish, surrealist paintings. With a distinct aesthetic, he draws on the world of pop culture and science fiction, creating works that nod to the future and knowingly reference historical art movements.
The collaboration shouldn’t come as a surprise: fashion collaborations are an effective way to familiarize new generations with an artist’s work. Scharf has worked on projects with Heron Preston and The Hundreds in the past year alone.
The partnership, which Scharf described as “an immediate yes,” tapped the artist to lend his colorful touch to Dior’s pre-fall men’s collection. The two were introduced by DJ Honey Dijon, who mixed the show’s soundtrack. “I’m really proud and honored, and super excited like I’m a little kid. And I think Kim Jones is a real genius,” Scharf said. “I’ve worked with so many designers over the years, but never in this kind of depth that I knew was going to take place. So it’s very fulfilling to me to see all these beautiful creations taken to their fullest––not just a little dabble here and there, like my other ventures in fashion.”
Though Kim Jones “doesn’t do nostalgia,” he’s been reminiscing about previous collection launches. “This time last year, we were in Miami, doing the Shawn Collection,” Jones said. Jones had initially planned the show for Beijing––a nod to the brand’s significant following in China––but with the pandemic showing little to no signs of halting, they opted to present it digitally instead.
“I think what people want now is a break from reality,” he said in a Zoom preview of Dior Men’s Fall 2021 Collection. “People don’t want to think about the everyday at the moment. So I wanted to bring some fun––though that sounds like a silly word. Some energy. Some excitement,” he said. It turns out Scharf was the right choice to bring energy.
This collection’s inspiration was drawn from China: a direct influence on Christian Dior himself and a hub of creativity and craft for centuries. Scharf’s characters were printed and embroidered on tailored menswear pieces, including traditional Chinese zodiac symbols. Many of the pieces are made with traditional Chinese techniques and materials, emphasizing the global nature of artistry and fashion.
Interwoven into the collection, jewelry pieces by Yoon Ahn (Dior Homme’s jewelry design director) boast jade and lapis. Chrysanthemums are reimagined as boutonnières. Tambourine-style berets by Stephen Jones also punctuate the looks. The collection’s more fanciful offerings are grounded by the brand’s latest sneaker design (a logo-emblazoned plimsole with an exaggerated sole unit) and by the faintly futuristic silhouettes. Jones, who is a long-time “Star Wars” fan, was influenced by The Mandalorian. “I liked the idea of it being quite spacey,” he says. “I’m always interested in the future.”